Some business owners in Westwood said they think a new city recycling program costs too much and has neglected to pick up their trash.
RecycLA, a program launched in July 2017 to promote recycling and reduce waste within the city, provides commercial properties with opportunities to recycle, which includes additional recycle bins and rebate systems for businesses that recycle. However, the program received more than 28,000 complaints about missed pickups as of January, said Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association.
Thomas said in addition to the large amount of missed pickups in Westwood, businesses have also complained about higher costs for the new service.
RecycLA contracted Athens Services, a waste management company, to collect trash in Westwood. Elena Stern, a spokesperson for the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said the city selected Athens Services to serve the Harbor, West LA and Central LA zones, which includes Westwood, because it has enough resources to meet the needs of their customers and a successful customer service track record.
Previously, the city’s waste management operations did not focus as much on recycling. However, in September 2016, the board of public works approved seven trash-pickup services to be used under the RecycLA program.
Stern added Los Angeles Sanitation evaluated Athens for 16,000 hours and recommended the service to the board of public works, which then forwarded the recommendation to the city for approval in 2016.
Thomas said RecycLA was designed to reduce waste service rates by incentivizing recycling, but added he thinks Athens did not clearly explain to customers how to use their recycling bins.
“I don’t know many people who say that we need to send more waste to the landfill, but the implementation isn’t good, and it needs to be fixed,” he said.
Thomas added because Athens is the only waste management service that the city contracts within the Westwood area, it is impossible for businesses to negotiate costs. The city council sets rates for Athens, which means customers who use the service cannot negotiate costs directly, Thomas said. He added business owners think the increased rates are not justified, especially since there is a decrease in service as well.
Stern said LA Sanitation will work to ensure customer satisfaction, but did not elaborate on how Athens will address community concerns.
Some business owners in Westwood said they had trouble with the new program, including increased costs and inconsistent service.
Peter Clinco, owner of Skylight Gardens, a restaurant in Westwood, said his business has seen its costs for trash pickup more than double.
“Because there is one company covering the entire district, it can and should be more efficient and save money,” Clinco said. “But I believe Athens is charging whatever they want because they do not have competition.”
Clinco, a board member of the WVIA, also said Athens has missed pickups for his business and has not received any improvement in services from the raised costs. He added the program has also required him to purchase his own lock for waste bins, which he did not have to do previously.
Clinco added his business only received one home recycling bin for his entire restaurant, which he said is not enough for his business.
“We need to have a serious discussion from Athens about what they’re providing and what we’re paying for,” he said.
Athens Services will be meeting with business owners on Feb. 22 at a town hall meeting to take comments and address complaints.